Math education: What’s the problem?

A new report claims that taking algebra too early is detrimental to students’ math education.

A new report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tackles the U.S. algebra and mathematics dilemma and is the latest to suggest that not all students should be pushed to take algebra in the eighth grade.

Solving America’s mathematics education problem,” by Duke professor Jacob L. Vigdor, examines cultural shifts that have resulted in new waves of interest in students’ mathematics performance.

Despite a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, high school students continue to perform poorly on math tests. That trend continues into college, where many new college students enroll in remedial math courses. The report notes that “the proportion of new college graduates who majored in math-intensive subjects has declined by nearly half over the past 60 years.”…Read More

New online community shares ed-tech best practices

Project RED, an ed-tech research and advocacy group that has been studying how technology can help re-engineer the education system, has created a new online community for school technology decision makers that includes access to its research findings.

With funding from HP, Intel, the Pearson Foundation, and SMART Technologies, Project RED a few years ago launched a national research study of 2,000 schools, examining each school’s technology program. The group’s findings suggested that—when implemented effectively—technology can provide a significant return on investment (ROI) and help raise achievement. Project RED also defined what it meant by “effective” implementation: in other words, what the research suggested was the best way for using technology to get the maximum ROI in schools.

Now, Project RED has developed a methodology for effective ed-tech implementation, based on its findings. Tom Greaves, chairman of the Greaves Group and one of the creators of Project RED, said the methodology is available through the group’s new professional learning community that offers tools, resources, and opportunities for school and district leaders to collaborate.…Read More

Report: Where do the ‘irreplaceable’ teachers go?

The high rate of teachers cycling in and out of schools is detrimental to the education profession and worse for students, decades of policy and research asserts. But a new report from an influential advocacy group makes the case for treating teacher turnover differently, the Huffington Post reports. The study, called “The Irreplaceables,” took several years for TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) to produce, and asserted that a high rate of teachers moving in and out of the profession isn’t necessarily bad.

“The whole basis of federal education policy since the ’60s has been the idea that if kids got greater access to opportunity, they would do better, so the main focus of policy should be increasing that sort of equity, access to teachers,” TNTP president Tim Daly said in an interview.

Rather, TNTP asserted, a high turnover rate among teachers who are “so successful they are nearly impossible to replace” — the “irreplaceables” — is the real problem. “Our analysis suggests that the problem is not the loss of too many teachers, but the loss of the wrong teachers,” Daly wrote in an e-mail introducing the report……Read More

Culture change needed to attract, keep teachers in struggling schools

A new report released by The Education Trust emphasizes the need for policy and culture changes in the public education sector, and not just updated teacher evaluation systems, the Huffington Post reports.

“Making evaluations more meaningful is a critical step toward improving our schools. But being able to determine who our strongest teachers and principals are doesn’t mean that struggling students will magically get more of them,” Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality at The Education Trust and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “We have to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive working environments in our high-poverty and low-performing schools that will make them more attractive to our strongest teachers.”

According to the report, teachers’ job satisfaction hinges more on the culture of the school — namely the quality of school leadership and staff cohesion — than it does on the demographics of the students or teacher salaries. Teachers who view their work environment in a positive light are more likely to evoke positive outcomes in their students……Read More

How can schools better motivate students?

"Improving student motivation cannot be accomplished by schools alone," says the report.

It might seem like common sense: To achieve better results, students have to be motivated. But what can schools do about this? A new report from the Center on Education Policy (CEP) aims to answer this question—and it argues that school reform efforts won’t succeed unless they address student motivation.

“Motivation is a central part of a student’s educational experience from preschool onward, but it has received scant attention amid an education reform agenda focused mainly on accountability, standards and tests, teacher quality, and school management,” explains the report.

The report, titled “Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform,” and published by the CEP, is a summary of the findings pulled from student motivation studies from scholars in a long range of disciplines, as well as case studies from around the U.S. The purpose is to start a conversation about the topic of student motivation and how schools can ensure it’s happening.…Read More

Universal Design for Learning: The next big thing in school reform?

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has seen an 11-percent increase in the number of students with disabilities passing standardized tests since implementing UDL two years ago.

As educators brace for new reforms, what will these changes look like? How will assessments and curriculum differ from previous versions? How can all students get the best education possible? The answer, some experts believe, lies partially in Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—a framework that’s quickly gaining momentum across the U.S.

A new report indicates that many states and school districts have implemented UDL with support from Race to the Top monies or federal stimulus funds as they move forward with their education reform efforts. The report was discussed during a May 15 webinar held by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and the National Center on Universal Design for Learning.

UDL, according to CAST, is an educational framework based on research in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments that can accommodate individual learning differences.…Read More

Breakfast in the classroom changing student performance

In the first month of a new experiment inside a Dixwell school, the number of kids eating breakfast shot up by 75 percent—a swift change that officials hope will help students learn math and read books, the New Haven Independent. The eating took place at Wexler/Grant School, which serves 378 kids in grades pre-K to 8 at 55 Foote St. The school, which is in the first year of a turnaround effort designed to boost failing test scores and improve the school climate, is now home to the experiment in childhood nutrition. On March 5, as kids began their annual high-stakes standardized tests, they tried out a new way of fueling up for the day. They grabbed a morning meal not in the school cafeteria, as was their routine, but in the classroom. In doing so, they followed the latest thinking in school meals, which concerns not just what kids eat but where. Studies show when kids are offered meals in the classroom, “they’re more likely to eat it,” said Sarah Maver, school wellness dietitian for New Haven Public Schools…

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Parents, educators want more from assessment

Results from a recent study results suggest that states and schools could use assessments in better and more helpful ways.

Thanks to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, K-12 educators are spending more time than ever before on testing their students’ skills—but is all this testing doing any good?

The results from a new national survey reveal that both parents and educators would like to see a wider variety of school assessments that go beyond the high-stakes exams now common in schools—and they’d like to see a wider range of skills and subjects tested as well, including so-called 21st century skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.

The results suggest that states and schools could be doing a better job of using assessments as key tools to foster student growth and achievement.…Read More

Study: Preparing to fail helps students succeed

Every day for the last four years, Leah Alcala has greeted her Berkeley, California, middle-school students with an exercise she calls “my favorite no,” the Huffington Post reports. As students enter class, they see a math problem on the whiteboard and are instructed to solve it on index cards. After they finish, Alcala immediately sees which answers are right or wrong — “yes” and “no” — and chooses her favorite incorrect response, the one most liable to be repeated. She then explains the mistake to the class — never identifying its culprit — and demonstrates how it can be avoided.

“At this point, I can almost predict the mistakes they’re going to make in a way that I never used to be able to,” Alcala says. In addition to helping her students understand that “mistakes are natural,” she says, she has seen their test scores rise since she started the activity…

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Education gap grows between rich and poor, studies say

Education historically was considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects, the New York Times reports. It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race. Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period…

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